When I was in the 5th grade I memorized Romeo’s balcony scene monologue. My brother had just started in the 8th grade at a new private school, and his English class was studying Shakespeare. Each student was required to memorize a passage from the great tragedy and recite it to the class. My brother, though brighter than most, was rather intimidated by this. He favored equations over paragraphs. Shakespeare’s particular brand of loquaciousness might as well have been Portuguese to his number-loving mind. Fortunately, my mother was always one step ahead. She established a line-a-night system, softening the intricate prose so it may permeate and linger long enough to be spoken before his classmates. Each evening after dinner, she would read the tangled words aloud slowly, using an authentic inflection. Hearing it broken down this way, I awoke to Shakespeare’s poetry. The words came alive. It made sense.
“That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.” I understood.
Thanks to sheer proximity (re: shared couch space), my mother’s slow Shakespearean sets seeped their way into my brain as well. Though serving over the years as little more than a fun party trick, my memorized bits of Romeo’s monologue are resurfacing in the studio, as we set a brand new interpretation of the epic love story. But this time my understanding feels different. Though the ancient text remains unchanged, the love and loss in my own life have transformed the words I once thought I knew. The prose itself seems to have inflated, the sentiment of every sentence deepened. Romeo’s love for Juliet seems ever more magnificent to me now, their untimely deaths far more crushing.
I can’t wait to see where the rest of this ballet takes me, perhaps even beyond fair Verona, where we lay our scene…